The Christmas holiday season can be a time of great joy, but for people who are feeling the distress caused by bereavement or other losses, especially in this year of COVID-19, the upcoming festivities may become a focus for emotions that are hard to cope with. Pandemic restrictions may also mean that the usual practical and emotional support people can get in person from family, friends, faith and community groups during difficult times may not be there.
The West Yorkshire and Harrogate Grief and Loss Support Service will remain open throughout the extended break, with trained counsellors available every day, including Christmas Day, by telephone, live online chat or text.
The free, direct-access service, commissioned by West Yorkshire and Harrogate Health and Care Partnership, is delivered by West Yorkshire and Harrogate Independent Hospices Consortium, Bradford Bereavement Services Consortium and Leeds Mind. It offers support, information and advice to anyone struggling with feelings of loss, whether as a result of bereavement or other loss such as loss of a way of life, normal contact opportunities, social and work interactions.
The service is accessed via a free telephone helpline that operates 8am-8pm, 7 days a week. Specialist advisors will offer practical advice and emotional support, and where appropriate, can signpost people to local place based services for specific counselling or other support.
Dr Sara Munro, CEO Lead for West Yorkshire and Harrogate Mental Health, Learning Disabilities and Autism Collaborative and CEO for Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust said:
“We recognise that Christmas can be very hard for people who are struggling with their emotions and that for some people, talking to a trained counsellor can make a big difference to their ability to cope. Our service will be open throughout the holidays as normal because feelings of grief and loss don’t take a break. We know that 2020 has been very hard for everyone and that many of us have experienced losses in unexpected forms – loss of routine, of work, of social connections as well as the awfulness of bereavement in isolation.
We encourage people to make the call and get the support that they need and deserve. We’re still here to help.”
West Yorkshire and Harrogate Independent Hospices Consortium Chief Executive Tony Collins said:
“Throughout the year the service has continued to support the emotional wellbeing of those across our communities, who have been affected by a sense of grief or loss. During what can be, and may be, a difficult time for many across our region during the festive period, we encourage anybody who feels like they should access the emotional support the service offers to contact us and talk to our trained professionals.”
Jenny Watson, a volunteer providing the service with Saint Michael’s Hospice and Just ‘B’, said:
“Offering support at a time when other services may be very busy or out of hours gives me huge satisfaction, as grief does not follow a nine to five timetable. When people access the service, however composed they may sound, they have reached out because they are suffering from emotional pain which feels unbearable for them to manage alone. To feel that I could help them, at least, to not feel so alone is very rewarding. What I hear from those who contact us about how lonely grief is, even when they have support networks, shows how important services like ours are for those who have losses to cope with.”